The thesis starts with the generation and characterization of single-photon states, using a source based on a single optically pumped quantum dot. The capability of these states to implement a quantum algorithm using linear optics and single-photon interference is experimentally demonstrated for the first time. Error correction makes the interferometric setup robust against phase-noise. After successful realization of this proof-of-principle experiment, attention is drawn to the need of plug-and-play single-photon sources. Especially quantum key distribution, the most advanced quantum information technology to date which has even found its way into commercial devices, requires compact and low-cost non-classical light sources.
Therefore, a single-photon source based on electrically pumped quantum dots is presented that exhibits unmatched spectral purity and single-photon statistics. Results towards the realization of quantum networks are presented in the following chapters, covering the generation of narrow-band single photons which can efficiently couple to atomic resonances. Photons with a spectral width of less than 3 MHz are created by ultra-bright cavity-enhanced spontaneous parametric down-conversion, and their quantum statistics is studied in detail. A setup for time-bin encoding is demonstrated, capable of imprinting quantum information onto these narrow-band single photons. This thesis concludes with slow-light experiments in atomic ensembles as a model system for atom-photon interaction on the single-photon level. The described experiments demonstrate striking features that make the single photon one of the most remarkable physical systems for the field of quantum information.
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